Showing posts with label AD 39. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AD 39. Show all posts

30 December 2016

Titus – Roman Emperor

'Good' ruler who helped victims of Vesuvius eruption

A statue of  Titus unearthed in Herculaneum, which can be found in a Berlin museum
A statue of  Titus unearthed in Herculaneum,
 which can be found in a Berlin museum
The Roman Emperor Titus was born Titus Flavius Vespasianus on this day in AD 39.

He was Emperor from AD 79 to 81 and is remembered for capturing Jerusalem and for completing the Colosseum in Rome.

Two months after his accession, on August 24, AD 79, Mount Vesuvius in Campania began erupting, eventually killing thousands of people around Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Titus appointed officials to coordinate the relief effort, while donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims. He visited Pompeii twice.

Titus was a member of the Flavian dynasty and succeeded his father Vespasian after his death, becoming the first Roman emperor to come to the throne after his biological father.

Titus was believed to have been born in Rome on December 30, AD 39, the eldest son of Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who was commonly known as Vespasian.

His father had earned prestige as a military commander, taking part in the invasion of Britain in AD 43 under the emperor Claudius.

Titus served under his father in Judea during the first Jewish-Roman war. The campaign came to a brief halt with the death of Emperor Nero in AD 68, which launched Vespasian’s bid for imperial power.

When Vespasian was declared Emperor in July AD 69, Titus was left in charge of ending the Jewish rebellion.  In AD 70 he besieged and captured Jerusalem and the Arch of Titus was built in Rome to commemorate his victory.

The Arch of Titus in Rome, built to commemorate the  victory of Titus in capturing Jerusalem
The Arch of Titus in Rome, built to commemorate the
victory of Titus in capturing Jerusalem
After the death of Vespasian from an infection, Titus succeeded him as Emperor.

Under the rule of his father, he gained notoriety in Rome while serving as prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and for carrying on a controversial relationship with the Jewish queen, Berenice.

There were fears among some Romans that Titus might be another Nero, whose leadership was seen as brutal and corrupt. In fact, his brief reign was considered a triumph by Suetonius and other historians, who saw him as a 'good' emperor and recorded that he was much loved by the population.

Building work on the Flavian amphitheatre, now known as the Colosseum, began in AD 70 under Vespasian and was finally completed in AD 80 under Titus. To inaugurate the amphitheatre, spectacular games, including gladiatorial combat and mock naval battles, were held there, lasting for 100 days.

But after barely two years as Emperor, Titus died of a fever on 13 September AD 81. Historians have speculated about his death and suspicion has fallen on his brother, Domitian, who succeeded him as Emperor and could have poisoned him.

Travel tip:

The Colosseum in the centre of Rome is the largest amphitheatre ever built. Construction began on the oval building in about AD 70 close to the Forum. The amphitheatre was built to hold up to 80,000 spectators and was used for events such as gladiator contests, mock sea battles and executions. Nowadays it has links to the Catholic Church and the Pope always starts his torch-lit Good Friday procession there.

The gladiator barracks: One of the ruins left behind after the eruption of Vesuvius and later uncovered at Pompeii
The gladiator barracks: One of the ruins left behind after the
eruption of Vesuvius and later uncovered at Pompeii
Travel tip:

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae and killing thousands. An eyewitness account of the eruption has been left behind by a Roman administrator and poet, Pliny the Younger, who described the event in his letters to the historian Tacitus. In the early hours of the morning of 25 August, pyroclastic flows of hot gas and rock began to sweep down the mountain, knocking down all the structures in their path and incinerating or suffocating the people who remained. The remains of about 1500 people have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The excavated ruins of Pompeii, show what daily life was like in a Roman city, down to what was sold in the shops and how people decorated their homes. Tourists can also visit the volcano, which since 1955 has been part of Mount Vesuvius National Park.

More reading:

AD 79: Europe's worst volcanic disaster

Decline and fall: Gibbon's epic work on history of Roman Empire

The 1944 Vesuvius eruption

Also on this day: